Longing [poem] by Laura McCullough

It’s there inside each moment, molecule,
in the lining of the clothes she folds,
in the lint she pulls from the dryer’s lip;
she feels it in the marks along her arms,
the threads of Alice and Dorothy, amputated
myths she once loved. Little Red in red
script across her lower back; tramp stamp,
her mother calls it. Tramp stamp, she says,
behind her mother’s back, oh my yes,
and behind the neck, one small star broken
into shards and drops of blood that shift
from magenta to purple to green and then
white, down along her ribs – they hurt –
and this small half moon on the cusp
of her thumb and forefinger, how it folds
when she closes her hand as she folds clothes,
her boyfriend’s shirt, the ravaged one he uses
to work out in, the arms cut off and the neck
slit; she folds and unfolds it again, the moon
rueful in the crease shutting down, now
opening, gone, there again, blue.


Image of 1930s Switchboard Operator

this poem refers from the word dryer in Laura’s other poem published in Referential titled When Wonder

Laura McCullough is the author of  four poetry collections.  This September, her third book of poems, Speech Acts, will be released from Black Lawrence Press; in November, her chapbook, Women and Other Hostages, which placed second in the Flip Kelly Contest, will be released by Amsterdam Press; in January, her fourth full length collection of poems, Panic, winner of a 2009 Kinereth Gensler Award, will be issued by Alice James Books, one of the longest running literary collectives in the country. Some of her upcoming publications (interviews, essays and poems) include  The Writer’s Chronicle, The American Poetry Review, New South and Pank. Laura has been a Prairie Schooner Merit Scholar in Poetry and Bread Loaf Staff Scholar. She has also been a New Jersey State Arts Council Fellow twice, once each in poetry and prose. Laura is one of the featured poets of the reincarnated Dodge Poetry Festival, and will also be sitting on a panel on teaching creative writing at the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics held in Princeton this year. She is also editing an anthology of essays by contemporary writers on Stephen Dunn’s work and is leading a tribute panel to Stephen at the next AWP conference in February.

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